Calgary’s Lisa “Longball” Vlooswyk, the eight-time women’s Canadian Long Drive National Champion and LDA Tour champion played Kimberley’s Trickle Creek Golf Course on a trip to B.C. last week.
“I love British Columbia, I come out here every summer, I love this area and it has been years since I’ve come to Kimberley to Trickle Creek,” Vlooswyk said. “It’s been one of my favourite golf courses.”
She said that the day she and her husband Anton got engaged they came out to Kimberley to celebrate, so it holds a special in their hearts.
Vlooswyk said she got into golf initially because she was her dad’s last hope for having another golfer in the family.
“My mum didn’t play, my sister didn’t play so he dragged me out to the local course when I was in junior high and there was 60 boys and me and the coach took one look at me and told me to go hit my six iron at the end of the driving range while he proceeded to work with the boys the rest of the evening.”
She said back then there weren’t a lot of strong junior girls golf programs, so she quit, playing maybe the odd nine holes with her dad once a year. Then in her 20s, her boyfriend at the time, now husband, had just graduated from engineering and started getting invited to corporate and charity golf tournaments.
“Golf truly is a key business networking skill and he was being left out of those opportunities because he didn’t play,” she explained. “So he would drag me out to our local municipal courses so that he could practice and he could show up and impress the clients and customers and I started to fall in love with it.”
She said her turning point came in 1999 when the LPGA came to Calgary, something which only happens maybe once every decade. She decided to volunteer, and wound up marshalling and getting to watch the best female golfers on the planet.
“I couldn’t break 100 to save my life at the time, but I was so inspired by these women that I decided that I wanted to compete in golf and luckily there’s competitions for people who can’t break 100.”
She started entering in Alberta mid-handicap tournaments, which was handicaps of 12-40 plus, and though she placed about three quarters down the pack, she noticed she was hitting the ball 80 to 100 yards farther than the other ladies.
“Now I didn’t think anything of it because it was kind of the mid handicap, within a year I got down to an 11 handicap, just snuck into the Alberta Amateur with the NCAA girls and again I came near the end of the pack but I was hitting it 70, 80 yards past many of the NCAA girls and then that’s when I knew that I was long.”
She saw an ad for a long drive competition, entered and wound up winning with a 313 yard drive she smacked with a club from COSTCO.
She then won her first National Title at Glen Abbey in Toronto and got her first top-ten finish in the world that same year.
This would actually have been her 20th year competing at the World Long Drive Championships, but they’ve been suspended due to the pandemic.
Her highest finish at the world level is second, losing out to five-time world champion Sandra Carlborg by three yards. After a top five finish in 2016, she had to battle back from a rotator cuff injury in 2017, so was looking forward to this year’s championship and hopes to see it go ahead.
Some of the accomplishments she’s most proud of include being the first pregnant athlete at the World Long Drive Championships, taking home a top ten finish while six months pregnant with her son Luke.
“Everyone said to me ‘Lisa once you become a mom you’ll never be world class again, you should just quit,’” she said. “And when I came second in the world it was after I had Luke. So for me that was probably one of the best accomplishments to come second in the world as a mom, to tell other moms out there ‘hey your career isn’t done just because you become a mom.’”
Before being an elite distance champion, Vlooswyk was an elementary school teacher, believing teaching to be a vocation or calling.
“When I discovered this weird, freaky ability to hit a golfball a long way I all of a sudden started touring and I realized I had to either resign my school teaching position to pursue my passion of trying to become the world long drive champion or I had to quit competing so that I could pursue my passion of teaching.”
Her husband told her “you have a limited chance to be the best in the world at something so do it.” She nervously signed her resignation papers and discovered that when she was competing, she would get invited to corporate and charity golf tournaments to be a golf entertainer, something she didn’t even know was a thing.
“I would stand on par fives and hit balls for guests and do kind of fun challenges to raise money for charity and then from that I was invited out to a big golf tournament and they wanted me to be a keynote speaker and they said ‘do you do that?’, and I replied, ‘oh yes absolutely!’”
She then learned, through trial by fire, to be a keynote speaker, and has travelled all over North America, allowing her to combine her passion of teaching with her love of golf.
She then became a golf journalist, writing a monthly column for the Calgary Herald. She’s since written in Golf Digest Canada when it was still around, Golf Tips Magazine and Inside Golf Magazine.
Next, she discovered while speaking at corporate and charity tournaments that the crowd was overwhelmingly male; the women were often back at the office doing the work while the men did the networking.
“I saw a real need for women to get corporate and charity golf tournament ready to get them the skill and confidence to just get out there and play.”
So she started a golf school for women in Calgary and has done it out of Toronto, Orlando and Phoenix.
She said that she never considered herself a role model for women, but she’s been doing instructional videos for one of her sponsors Golf Town, which have been getting upwards of 135,000 views. She would hear from women from all around the world that her videos inspired her to up their game.
“I guess I never saw myself as a role model but when people share these wonderful things that I inspire them, to me that’s the greatest gift.”
She said that she’s heard people say that golf is a dying sport but she’s been experiencing the opposite.
“Golf is such a wonderful sport to be doing during COVID, it’s the perfect social distancing sport,” she said. “I think a lot of people have been reintroduced back into golf and I think that’s exciting and it’s a great game for family, it’s great for couples, for friends, just to get out there, devices are put away. Golf is such an awesome sport and if people have fallen away from it and are considering coming back I would say go for it because this is the time to come back to the game.”
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